A Brief History of Death

January 19, 2016 at 10:30 pm (Movies, The Entertainment Center, Uncategorized) (, , , )

 

Well folks, I’m finally going to do it. I threatened Creep with this paper a while back, but never got around to it, as with so many other things. However, I’ve actually been doing further research and refining my theory! Aren’t you just lucky ducklings? Watch out for priests!

I will note here that I’ve been trying to write this for a while now, and every time I try to write it I end up haring off after political discussions. Relevant political discussions, but ones that detract from the paper itself. In the interests of avoiding that, consider this version of the article your slasher killer lurking in the shadows with a machete (or is that a bill hook?)

The black-gloved murderer version of the paper will be elaborated upon if anybody actually wants to discuss my drivel further, with all the colored lens gels, elaborate lighting, Morricone music, and scantily clad Edwige Fenech that implies.

edwige_fenech_in_top_sensation

All you’re going to get here, folks!

Now, where were we? Ah yes!

Continue below for my thoughts on the difference between European and American horror. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Monsters Inside

December 26, 2015 at 9:16 pm (Uncategorized)

The following story was originally written for and published in The Complete Writhing Dark Anthology, available here. All copyrights retained by the author, Jason Leisemann, 2013.

My name is Carl Anderson, and I have a monster inside me.  I can see it sometimes, lifting its head beneath my skin, my yielding flesh rising in a thin, sharp line as it probes for a way out.  I know entirely too well what it looks like from those fleeting glances.  The scurrying scorpion inside me, with its needle-head and its scissors-tipped tail, is a new addition to my life, only hatching after my new neighbor moved in, but he is not the first.  That honor goes to the Silent Man, his eyeless, earless head fitting neatly beneath my own skin.

We all have something like it.  I’ve had a gift since I was a child, the ability to see the writhing parasites under the skin, the ways our human-suits stretch and strain to contain the abominations beneath them.  Everywhere I go, walking prisons smile and wave, going about their lives thinking that they’re the only ones with a prisoner, even when the monsters around them bare their fangs.  Some of them even manage to think that they’re really human.

I used to think I knew my monster well, but I’m now I’m filled with new questions.  Is the scorpion a part of him?  Is it a new arrival?  Can they both really fit inside of me, without one of them having to escape?

What happens if it does?

Read the rest of this entry »

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How I Spent my Vacation

November 10, 2013 at 8:19 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Last weekend, I was one of the delegates to the Convention of Steam, AKA Teslacon 4.  I have attended this gathering of assorted ‘steampunks’ these three prior years as well, and so I knew that I was going to need to bring a bit of extra luggage with me, such as the spare blasters that I purchased last year, during our lunar encounters with the villainous faction of madmen known as S.W.A.R.M., and the last-minute provisions I acquired this year as part of my kit for facing esoteric horrors from beyond.

And, as it turns out, it was a good thing indeed that I did!  Though I consulted with Uncle Alistair regarding how to best employ my new acquisitions, his advice turned out to be rather… lacking.  While his advice as to what I should gather proved quite prescient, his neglecting to mention that I should keep my etching of John Dee’s Elder Sign directly on my person leads me to suspect he’s still rather cross with me for the whole ‘placing his brain in a bootleg Mi-Go communication device” incident.  

At any rate, once further provisioned with a canister of Dr. Pearce’s Powder of Ibn-Ghazi (for when you absolutely, positively must see that which was not meant to be seen) and an antique powder sprayer properly designed for its deployment, I left Uncle Alistair in the mausoleum and set out for the airship.  Strangely, there seemed to be an official photographer on board, using some new-fangled version of Dagerrotyping to capture real-time images from the trip.  I must speak with them about their methods, they could prove invaluable in the field.  Far more practical than asking the ineffable beyond to kindly hold still whilst your plates develop.

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I attended, as always, under the auspices of Jason K.W. Leisemann, bookkeeper by trade (at least when the buggers stop running off on me), and cartomancer by avocation.  While this year was full of continued stirrings and rumblings of rebellion and dissent from the various colonies seeking independence from the British and French, I was able to leave most of those dealings to Lord Bobbins and his entourage.

Just as well, the pompous windbag could likely have saved us all quite a bit of trouble if he and Doctor Proctocus had just settled their differences in the dueling hall, rather than the continued sniping back and forth, though I’m happy to say there was rather less collateral damage this year than in years prior!  Likely due to the fact that the sniping wasn’t taking place on an enclosed, pressurized vessel some several hundred fathoms deep.  Likely to be an issue with that again next year, when Bobbins is preparing us for some manner of subterranean adventure.  I dare say though, if he’s planning on taking us through some of the places I ended up visiting this year… I do hope he finds some means of avoiding the local fauna!

You see, whilst Bobbins and company were off enjoying themselves with cultural exchange events and arguing about who was responsible for who detonating most of London and Paris during the first convention (Proctocus, of course – even the likes of S.W.A.R.M. won’t take him!), there was some sort of mix-up with our itinerary and some damn fool decided one of our layovers should be on the Plateau of Leng.  I know some of you may have heard that the dread Plateau is in the Antarctic wastes.  Well, you’d be right, but it’s still surprisingly warm and beautiful there, so long as you are prepared for the locals.  Beastly chaps, and I say that not because I disagree with their skin color (I don’t care if you’re black, white, or mauve, which they were), but for strictly religious reasons.  In particularly, the part of their religion that dictates all strangers not eaten by them are to instead be fed to the local eldritch abomination.

Now, many people believe all eldritch abominations are manifestations of the Elder Gods or Great Old Ones.  This is an error common to the uninitiated, and I forgive you that lapse.  You see, Elder Gods and Great Old Ones have one defining common characteristic – as their names suggest, they are rather elderly, and therefore spend much of their time in enchanted slumber, or raving blindly in the distant halls of their kingdoms, not unlike dear Uncle Aloysius when you let him out of the basement for Yuletide.

However, while the Elder Gods and Great Old Ones, like Uncle Aloysius, are rather cross at being wakened and prone to laying waste to vast stretches of countryside, most eldritch abominations are rather more like… hmm… I suppose you might call them Teenage Gods, or the Great Pubescent ones.  And, like most teenagers, they are prone to snarling invectives at those who wake them up, finding a snack, and falling back into slumber, sometimes leaving the neighbor’s daughter in a family way during their ramblings.

Well, I’m not entirely sure if the natives of the Plateau had selected me for the snack, or the neighbor’s daughter, but they clearly thought that I would make a superb specimen of a sacrifice.  I believe the phrase ‘grand feast’ was uttered at some point, though it’s always rather difficult trying to translate the Lengian dialect of Aklo.  It’s not dissimilar from the dialect spoken by the Tcho-Tcho people of the Cambodian region, but further affected by the fact that the Men of Leng spend much of their time traversing the spaces of the Dreamlands.

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It was, of course, necessary to dissuade them from this particular course of action by rather extreme measures.  I must commend the cameraman though.  The poor man had a limp, which sadly resulted in his failing the most rudimentary rule of dealing with eldritch abominations: never be the last man in the line running away from the beastly things.  He did, at least, have the professionalism to hurl his camera into some nearby soft foliage whilst being rent asunder by tentacled horrors from beyond.  Haven’t seen such nerves of steel since the Boer War.  Usually they’re wasting their time screaming and bleeding and pleading for mercy from a God which surely wouldn’t allow such horrors to exist in the first place, and completely lose the evidence of the encounter ever taking place.

Well, once I was back on board the ship, and having a rather stern word with the man in charge of our layovers, things were more or less settled.  Of course, there’s still questions regarding next year, but I plan on spending the duration of my journey inside.  Particularly given that I am aware S.W.A.R.M. agents have already been expressing interest in the rumors of local populations ripe for exploitation… I suspect that a man of my talents may be required aboard.

Rather hard to buy the locals out of house and home when one loses your trinkets and beads to the rotund gentleman in the tea room with a deck of cards, after all.

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What movies need….

October 16, 2011 at 10:01 am (Uncategorized)

Hi there all! Just trudging out of hibernation to make some general observations. I’m also cross-posting this to my podcast site, just for kicks (and because people are more likely to see it there, since I’ve kinda ignored The Wolfemann’s Den since starting the show).

I’ve been to the theater a fair amount this year, actually. First, I went to Insidious with my family. Great film, in my opinion, and an almost-perfect “intro to horror” film. I strongly recommend picking it up for this Halloween season (along with Trick ‘r Treat, of course, and the original Halloween, and….)

Second, I went to see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, on the strength of Guillermo Del Toro’s producer’s credit. I liked it, but it wasn’t a ‘knock it out of the park’ film. However, I will give it credit for inspiring me to pick up some books by Machen that I’ll eventually read for my podcast over at Darkly Lit. I also liked the more stealthy reference to the works of Algernon Blackwood.

And, next weekend, I’m going out to catch Paranormal Activity 3 on opening day. This will happen; the last two films warranted it, and the trailer looks like they’re taking on at least half of my idea for what the third film should do (discussed in Episode 31 of Darkly Lit, along with my opinion of the Saw films)

And, while seeing these films, I’ve seen a lot of trailers. One of which inspired me to see the movie it was for; when I saw Insidious, it included a trailer for Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, which made me want to see it, and made my brother absolutely refuse to. I intend to punish him by watching John Carpenter’s The Thing later today.

But other than that one film, I saw a lot of trailers that did exactly what they wanted to avoid – they made me want to avoid the theater like the plague. For some of these films, I never was going to see them. Bridesmaids, for example. For others, I was actually seriously considering catching them. Straw Dogs, for example. The prequel for The Thing. I’d been considering trying to catch them… and then I saw the trailers. On the bright side, the trailer for Straw Dogs did make me want to go back and catch the Sam Peckinpas original, which meant I remembered to pick it up when I found it at Half Price Books that afternoon! But ultimately, both of these trailers kept me out of the theaters (along with the trailer for Dream House, which I caught on IMDB instead of in the theater itself.)

What this did make me think about was the current state of the theater. Why do I go so seldom? Because 99% of the films that are coming out are so freakin’ weak. There’s no reason whatsoever for me to go spend $10 on a theater ticket, $3.50 on a small drink, and $4 for a small popcorn when I can wait until the movie comes out on DVD, rent it at my local Family Video (or Netflix, or Redbox) for less than the price of the popcorn, and then watch it in the comfort of my own home, with a chilled bottle of Sprecher’s ginger ale (not available at my local movie theater, at least), and all the freshly popped peppered popcorn (not available at any movie theater) that I can eat.

Oh, and the ability to pause the danged thing when I need to use the can. Or turn it off if it turns out to be an absolute pile, which happens entirely too often these days.

Why should I go to the theaters? 3D films? I don’t have a 3D TV, after all, so that might be a reason. Except that (a) most 3D movies are this post-processed crap that aren’t worth the $3 surcharge, (b) most of the ones that are truly 3D films and warrant the surcharge are glorified tech demos (Avatar, I’m looking at you), and (c) I’ve got regular glasses. Have you ever tried wearing a pair of cheap shades over prescription glasses? Yeah, it’s not fun. Especially not for three hours of eye-strain (again, Avatar, I’m looking at you.)

But I understand why they’re pushing 3D. It’s something that most people’s home theaters can’t do yet, or at least can’t do well. That’s going to change in the very near future, I’m quite sure, but that tech’s still being worked on. Once they don’t have that any more… what will theaters do? Most people think that they’ll go the way of the drive-in; they’ll become a novelty, something that you do because you want a special night out, not because you just want to see a particular film . This is something that we’ve seen before; back in the 50’s and 60’s we had this sort of thing happening when TV came out, and then in the 80’s when video came out. At least then the theaters still had the advantage of the big screen and better projectors… but in the era of 62″ plasma/LED TV’s that have 1080p resolution and the Blu-Ray player, that doesn’t help so much.

What will convince people to pay through the nose for the privilege of sitting in an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by morons talking and texting during the film, all while paying 2-3 times the going rate for your snacks?

What the movie theater industry needs is another William Castle.

Will Castle was the marketing genius responsible for putting butts in seats during films like The House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and Mister Sardonicus (by the way – both of those links are to Archive.org, where you can pull down perfectly legal public domain copies of the films to watch). These films were cheesy, yes. They were cheap, hell yes. But they were fun. They were enjoyable… and Will Castle got the guys running the theaters to make it an event. Take a look at some of the things he did in his films. And he wasn’t the only one, just the most common one. Roger Corman did this in the original Pirahna (you know, the good one). Here are the recommended tricks that Corman suggested theater owners to do (paraphrased from the pamphlet included with the 20th anniversary special edition:

1: Tie in the local tropical fish store, and get a tank full of pirahna placed in the lobby. Put a sign out saying “Fish don’t eat people. People eat fish.” Scatter a few old rings and watches on the bottom of the tank to complete the effect.

2: Turn the tables on the pirahna, and sponsor a “pirahna swallowing contest.” Replace the pirahna with goldfish, and give the winner complimentary tickets to the film. Be sure to have the local press cover the event.

3: Persuade local bars and restaurants to feature a special on a “pirahna cocktail” (better known as a Bloody Mary.)

4: Make a tie-in with your local sports shop, since the movie features a lot of summer water sports. Set aside some space in your lobby for the sports stores to set up a display.

5: Sponsor a dance contest, where the contestants are judged based on their interpretation of the new, as-yet-unknown dance craze, “The Pirahna!” (Ah, the 70’s.) Winners receive a free one-way bus ticket to Aquarena Springs (in Texas) and 3-days free use of top-of-the-line camping gear from your local sporting goods store.

6: Leave dead pirahna along local rivers and streams. Organize your local boy scouts and such to guard against “the oncoming onslaught.” Pay a few enterprising kids a few bucks to stay out of sight for a few days while the film is out, and watch your grosses soar!

Now, of all of these options, only 2 and 6 would be likely to get you picketed or sued or otherwise in trouble in the modern era (again – ah, the 70’s…). Maybe they wouldn’t have the strongest effect of putting butts in seats, but it would certainly get word of mouth going. Couple it with something like #1, and you can make it work a bit better.

Or maybe do what Hammer Films did with Rasputin, the Mad Monk, and distribute souvenirs to theaters (Rasputin beards, if you’re curious). If you got a little knick-knack when you went to see the movie, maybe that’d be a good reason not to wait for the DVD. As it stands, you’re more likely to get a knick-knack when you wait for the DVD, if you pay for the special edition!

And it’s not like it’s hard to figure out gimmicks to use. Pirahna 3D (or 3DD)? Just borrow the old gimmicks from the 70’s. Saw? Go back to William Castle, and have one of your underpaid ushers (or volunteer theatre major, if you’re in a college town) be the “victim” of a trap during a dull spot in the film. Dream House? Eh, this one’s a little tricky, but given the real estate market these days maybe pay somebody to set up a haunted house in their for-sale property? I don’t know, but then, I’m not getting paid to think of these things either.

The point is, there are lots of ways you could come up with gimmicks. Sure, they’re cheap. Sure, they’re propping up a movie that’s not necessarily that great. Sure, they’re chintzy.

That’s the freakin’ point.

They make going to the theater a unique experience. They get people talking about a movie, and about the amazing thing that happened there that you can’t see anywhere else.

Thiswould get butts in seats. Even I would consider paying to go see a Saw film if I heard that somebody had a trap go off on them in the back row of the theater and run out screaming. Sure, I’d figure out that it was a cheap gimmick in the theater, but it’d be fun! And isn’t that why we’re going to the theaters in the first place?

Shark Night 3D? Make it a real 3D film, and have a flying shark swoop down over the audience on rails! It’d get people laughing, but in a film like that, that’s what you want!

Don’t be Afraid of the Dark? Play a ‘whisper track’ that doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, have a paid plant or two to gasp or otherwise act like something grabbed at them, knock something over in the back of the theater – pretend that the fairies are loose in the cinema!

Of course, you’d have to rework the movies so that they had scenes where these sort of things weren’t too disruptive, or otherwise played into the tension of the film. But it’d be a blast! It would make the movies enjoyable again. It would make that $10+ ticket actually kinda worth paying for, because you can’t get it at home. You would be selling memories that’ll last forever, and sometimes little collectibles that folks can hang onto just for fun.

And, if all else fails, you can always fall back on offering life insurance policies in case you die of fright during the movie.

And then pray to high heaven that nobody just happens to have a coronary in the middle of it.

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Bring Paranormal Activity 2 to Your City to See It First!

September 18, 2010 at 6:20 am (Uncategorized)

Okay folks – rare that I’d do something like this, but I loved the first film, and it’d be *really* nice to be able to get in to see the second one gratis. So if you could go to the website and ask for Paranormal Activity 2 to be sent to the Milwaukee, WI metro area – zip code 53005 – I’d really appreciate it, because it’d be cool to get in on the midnight screening. I’d call for it in Madison, but that’s so far down the list I don’t see any decent chance of getting it into the Top 20 – Milwaukee will just have to deal with me for once, if this happens.

There’s even a good chance that, if I do go to see the screening, I’ll put up a special episode of my podcast where I discuss the film.

Bring Paranormal Activity 2 to Your City to See It First! Free midnight
screenings in the Top 20 Cities. Demand it! now at
http://movies.eventful.com/competitions/paranormalactivity2010

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Demand Paranormal Activity 2 in Milwaukee!
Paranormal Activity 2 in Milwaukee - Learn more about this Eventful Demand

View all Milwaukee events on Eventful

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Movie-s weekend!

August 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, this weekend I went to the movies again.

TWICE!

I’m going to blame HorrorEtc for that – go pay them a visit at www.horroretc.com to heap shame and praise upon them for all they have done.

Now, what would drag me out to the theatre again, a mere TWO MONTHS after I went out to see Splice in mid/late June?

Well, that would be The Last Exorcism.

What would drag me out again, a mere TWO DAYS after that?

That would be Piranha 3D.

One of these films was great! The other… was Piranha 3D.

Y’see, I generally *really* like two types of film. I like well-acted horror movies that build tension and keep you wondering what’s going to end up happening. And I like stupid, goofy films that you have to see to disbelieve. Don’t believe me? Paranormal Activity was the first film I saw in theatres that ended a decade-long drought (I’ve raved about it before), and I publicly admit to LIKING Street Fighter: The Movie.

And not just for Raul Julia’s final performance, either (I also liked Zangief.)

Now, based on this, one might think that I had a pair of winners going here. Last Exorcism was indeed well-acted, well-written, built tension, and kept me wondering what’s going to end up happening (for reference – the entire movie looks like it’s about to have a powerful, yet happy ending. Then they talk to the kid at the diner….)

The Last Exorcism is a film about an evangelical preacher helping film an expose of exorcism. He doesn’t want any more exorcists wrapping paper bags around the heads of their patients – he believes it does have legitimate therapeutic value, but the people who’ll kill the subject to “save their soul” terrify and sicken him, so he’s planning to blow the whole powder keg. The problem is, he’s got a real hard-core True Believer for this last exorcism, and when things don’t go well, shotguns start getting waved around. If you’re not up for scary movies? Try this one, and walk out before they go to talk to Logan at the diner.

Or stick around, and see why I had a grin plastered across my face until the credits were over and the ushers were poking me with brooms and irritable expressions.

As for Piranha 3D, it sounds like it ought to be a stupid, goofy film that you have to see to disbelieve. And, indeed, it was stupid and goofy. The problem was, it was more stupid than goofy (and I think I’ve got mild eye strain from the totally unnecessary 3D glasses).

Here, your plot is that an earthquake (apparently caused by a bottle of beer – not joking) opens up an underwater lake that contains a huge school of prehistoric piranhas, during spring break. Piranha who, I swear, caused a whirlpool to suck Richard Dreyfuss down to be eaten.

The frolickers and soft-core pornstars at the lake proceed to be menaced (and eaten) by evil fish, until somebody blows them up. Soft-core porn director gets hisself et multiple times, setting up one of the most unnecessary gags in the film, and the day is saved.

OR IS IT?!?

Actually, no, it isn’t – because they’ve already announced Pirahna 3D 2 to come out in 2012.

This one, I walked out of as soon as the credits started up, and not *just* because my brother was feeling mildly nauseous at the gore. I wasn’t bothered too much by it, but gore doesn’t bother me, as I’ve said many a time before.

The problem was, it really was a film that could have been goofy fun (and has been for many people, to judge by what I’ve heard about it). But for me, it was just… eh. The violence was extreme, but that doesn’t do too much for me, and there were too many “goddamn dumb” bits for me to even start counting… but allow me to cite one in particular.

EXTENSION CORDS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!

This movie was an exercise in juvenile stupidity, nudity, gore, and missed opportunities. The problem is that it was aimed not only at frat boys, but the ones who were actively *using* the beer bongs, the nudity wasn’t particularly sexy (Riley Steele, Kelly Brooke, don’t take offense – I’m sure you’re perfectly lovely ladies in person, but this movie did *not* make me want to find out), the gore was too realistic for the rest of the tone of the movie, and the missed opportunities were totally missed.

For example: You have Eli Roth in a movie about killer pirahna. He’s a character who was Born To Die (rather like Jerry O’Connell, who not only got et, but got et TWICE). He’s standing on a floating platform that’s slowly being driven down into the lake by the frantic and panicked swimmers climbing onto it. You’ve established that the pirahna can jump short distances out of the water.

And you do NOT have him die by having a pair of pirahna leap out of the water, latching onto his Achille’s tendons and severing them, sending him falling helplessly into the lake?!? What sort of referential horror movie are you, Piranha3D?!?

As far as this movie goes, if you do see it, do it for one of two reasons. Do it because you’re fond of watching Hollywood desperately try to make fun of soft core porn that’s actually marginally more competent than most mainstream music videos, or do it because you want to see Ving Rhames brandishing a motherfu@#ing outboard motor like a chainsaw. That was the one truly awesome moment in this film, in my opinion, and Ving, I salute you.

So, in summary? Go watch Last Exorcism. Go watch it now. If another showing had been going, I’d have taken my brother, snuck out of Pirahna, and gone over to catch that – and I only watched it 2 days ago. When it comes out on DVD, buy it, because it’s not the sort of film that relies on special effects to make worthwhile. As a matter of fact, it would’ve almost been a blast to not hear about it as a film until it was run *as* a documentary of some sort – I’d have loved to see this given the Blair Witch treatment that way. And prove to Hollywood that we are willing to watch smart, well-written films.

Otherwise, next year, we’re just going to get Saw 8 – Revenge of the Jigsaw. And nobody wants to watch the Jigsaw Killer being defeated by Ewoks.

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Plot bunneh! (Batman and Lovecraft flavored, even!)

July 15, 2010 at 9:05 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been nibbling in the gardens of my brain for a while, so I’m going to let him out in the yard and see if the Hawk of Shiny New Ideas gets him before I do anything with him.

In Lovecraft, “Arkham” was a city in Massachussets that was home to a Sanitarium and many an ancient eldritch menace – as well as kiddy-corner to many *other* places where Bad Things Happen, like Dunwich, Innsmouth, Kingsport and… well, most any other place Lovecraft came up with that was known to mortal man (except for the urban district of Red Hook – that was CLEARLY his much-loathed Manhattan squalor, full of all those nasty immigrants he disliked so. New York City did NOT agree with the man.)

Well, eventually, Arkham inspired the creators of Batman to create Arkham Asylum as the place to cart off all the baddies… but it’s not the only logical link to Lovecraft from the Batman universe.

R’as al-Ghul, with his ancient alchemical lore and hidden Lazarus Pits in the dark places of the Earth, calls back to the ancient sorcerers and madmen who penned books like the Necronomicon.

Killer Croc seems quite a bit like what one might get out of a particularly degraded specimen of Howard’s serpent-people – a hulking, reptilian abomination lurking beneath the city, occasionally coming out for food, fun, and possibly the occasional sacrifice to the ancient Snake-God, Yig.

The Penguin, with his creepy, not-quite-human appearance, seems to call to a strange variation on the Innsmouth Look, as well as to the eldritch horrors that lurk beneath the Antarctic ice.

The Joker is a nihilistic madman – very much in keeping with the sort of supervillain Lovecraft might have approved of. One who saw the entire world as a great joke, destined for devastation and chaos beyond mankind’s control, and eager to help it get there.

Of course, Catwoman is as much anti-heroine as villainess – and if Lovecraft could find any female a suitable heroine, it would surely be one who was educated and capable of working in a man’s world (much like his wife, who he was sufficiently fond of to marry despite her being Jewish), as well as one who shared his inordinate fondness for cats.

Other ties can be dug out, of course, but that’s enough for a start here.

What is it that has led to the corruption that seems to be gnawing at Gotham’s heart? Why does it need a Batman, and why is it such a magnet for madmen and monsters? Perhaps there’s something deeper, hidden beneath the dark heart of the city… perhaps Gotham wasn’t always Gotham.

In The Colour Out of Space, a reservoir is built outside of Arkham, one that the ancient Ammi Pierce claimed would be tainted by the sky-born creature that had claimed the mind and life of his dear friends and neighbors, the Gardners. The Colour seemed to taint everything that it touched, drawing on its life, twisting its mind, and slowly spreading a lasting blight through its very being. Perhaps in the wake of the reservoir’s use, and the other assorted incidents that struck Arkham, the city’s founders and people decided it was best to change the city’s name and identity – to leave behind the tainted reputation of Arkham, and seek a new golden age along with a new name. Of course, you can polish the skin of the apple, but if the core is still rotten, it’s just as foul to taste… and the newly-christened Gotham is black and dripping at its heart, no matter how bright and shiny the skin it shows the world.

Of course, the Colour has long since been satisfied – but between its lasting taint, and the other foul things that dwelt beneath the streets, what used to be Arkham remains a hotbed for all forms of creeping insanity. Cults exist among the homeless and the downtrodden, ones that make the horror at Red Hook seem downright tame. Nightmarish creatures perch on the high buildings of the city, always alert for new prey. And the growing influence of the things that stir fitfully in their slumber reaches out, granting power to some, insight to others, and madness to all they touch. They lurk in strange places – a child born with hands strangely reminiscent of a bird’s flippers. A once-respected DA, who delved too deep into things he shouldn’t, and was visited with a horribly scarred face and mind for his troubles. A cackling lunatic with a rictus grin painted on his face that matches the one he wears on his lips, lone (for now) worshipper of the crawling chaos at the center of the universe, that will one day consume all that is. A distant scion of the creatures who once ruled in ancient Hyperborea, the idiot son of creatures mankind does not even know existed. A cultured ascetic, whose long-prolonged life is an unending quest to fulfill a bargain long-ago made with eldritch monstrosities – to grant them freedom in exchange for power.

Now, I know, DC has had this idea themselves with the Elseworlds installment “The Doom that Came to Gotham.” But from everything I’ve seen and heard, they’re going about it the wrong way – trying to force Batman into Lovecraft’s world, rather than working Lovecraft into Batman’s.

I still don’t have an overarching plot for this, but who knows? Maybe I’ll figure something out given some time….

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Spiral – AKA, “DAMMIT, I CAN’T TALK TO ANYBODY ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!”

June 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm (Movies, The Entertainment Center) (, , , )

Really, that kinda explains the whole thing, doesn’t it?

I just finished watching Spiral, a movie from 2007 that was co-written by, and starred, Joel Moore, who also had a role in this unimportant little film nobody ever heard of. If you frequent the art house circuit, you might know about it – Avatar? Yeah, that one, so you did hear about it – cool.

Spiral is nothing like Avatar.

Spiral is a picture into obsession and isolation – a young man (Joel Moore) named Mason, with only one friend in the world and a whole boatload of psychological issues. As an amateur psychiatrist, I’d say the conservative list includes… hmm…

Panic disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder
Chronic depression
Obsessive compulsive disorder
a whole boatload of phobias
and, basically, a partridge that’s not quite up in the top of the pear tree.

Now, he has reasons for this, it turns out. But I can’t talk about it.

He works as a telecommuter – I can talk about that. And he likes jazz (though not smooth jazz – “smooth jazz isn’t jazz”) and painting. He has a job as a telemarketer, working for his one friend in the whole wide world… and yes, ladies and gentlemen, this movie will reaffirm all your convictions that telemarketers really are psychopaths.

He meets a girl at work who takes a shine to him, and they start talking, then going out. Really, having a relationship seems to be doing incredible things for poor Mason. He starts making his sales numbers, is socializing more, cracks jokes, generally starts being a normal person. He sketches Amber (his new girlfriend) and paints her, in all sorts of poses – but there’s a rule. Nobody sees his pieces until they’re done. Eventually… well, you remember the story of Bluebeard, right? And when they do, they go down hill fast. This movie’s called ‘Spiral,’ but this spiral is one that links back up to the beginning after a while.

And while I really, really, REALLY wish I could talk about the ending, I’m not going to do that to you. I’m just going to say this – go watch this movie. If you like psychological thrillers, you owe it to yourself.  You can find it at the link below, or streaming on Netflix.

Spiral

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Movie Review: Nightmare on Elm Street

May 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm (Movies, The Entertainment Center) (, , )

On April 30, the new Nightmare on Elm Street came out. And I, being something of a fan of the series, decided that I would go to the theater and see it. I did this despite my usual distaste for the theater, largely because I wanted to give it a half-decent shot – and because my brother is also a fan of the series, and was interested in going.

So, what did I think? Was it the cinematic drek that most reviewers have called it? Was it a brand new revelation in the world of Freddy? Or was it just a decent way to kill a couple hours?

Well, how about that last one. I watched it. I enjoyed it, though I felt it was deeply flawed, and my brother enjoyed it as well. Most reviewers, of course, have loathed it so far, but I think they’re full of it. Allow me to explain.

SPOILERS ABOUND! If you’re going to keep reading, then complain about spoilers, then you can go take a nap in the basement of 1428 Elm Street.

Now, that taken care of…. When I went into this film, I was anticipating them making what I feel would have been the biggest mistake they could ever make – making Freddy an innocent victim, coming back for sick and twisted revenge. I expected this because of the first trailer for the movie, which featured a confused Freddy fleeing murderous parents of the children he’s been victimizing. I was quietly hopeful that they wouldn’t go this route, feeling that it would be the fastest way to completely annihilate the film’s premise, and castrate Freddy, but expecting it. For the majority of the film (after introducing the idea), they actually make it look like they’re going to lean that way. I was so, so very grateful when they didn’t, that I would’ve forgiven a lot from the movie. Why? Because they’d actually been doing a decent job of things up to then.

Allow me to handle this in my own way – taking the complaints about the movie that I’ve heard the most often, and addressing them one by one.

  • Freddy was supposed to be a child murderer, not a pedophile.

First off… Am I the only person who always thought he’d been a pedophile? Maybe it’s just the fact that child murderers frequently are, but I’d just assumed it – especially given the powerfully sexual undertones of parts of Robert Englund’s portrayal. Second, wrong! Wes Craven had been planning to make Freddy a pedophile, but dropped those elements after a series of highly publicized molestation cases came out that he didn’t want to appear to be capitalizing on. So I call this one a bad argument.

A valid argument, however, is this question – WTF is Freddy doing with the gloves if he ‘only’ was a pedophile, and not a child killer? At the very least, he must have been on the verge of ‘graduating’ to murder, which doesn’t make sense for him to have done if he had an ‘outlet’ for his sexual urges. The fact that it’s Chris who had cuts on her, not Nancy, makes even less sense. They shouldn’t have made Freddy a pedophile who had a position that allowed him to be a practicing one – he should have been a ‘normal’ guy who had to sneak around in order to act on it. But then they wouldn’t have been able to paint the parents as completely murderous, rather than acting to take out a threat the law had failed to stop.

  • Jackie Earle Hayley was horrible as Freddy Krueger.

Stop. Just stop. JEH was perfectly good as Freddy – I wish we had the original voiceover though. Originally, JEH played Freddy with the voice of a burn victim – which is what his voice should have been, logically. However, test audiences said it wasn’t scary enough, so they scrambled to completely redo his voiceover. The physical portrayal? Spot on, and the little ‘quirk’ of sharpening his fingers against each other is a nice creepy touch. I’ve got no problems with JEH as Freddy – except for the problem that isn’t his fault. He’s not Robert Englund. And that’s why people wanted JEH to be bad.

Moreover, he fit the profile quite nicely from what we saw. JEH’s Freddy lived as the groundskeeper of a preschool – a guy who had a job that put him in frequent contact with his victims. He lived on the grounds, which implies some degree of indigence (by the way – not unreasonable, particularly if the school is primarily funded by some charitable organization).

  • Freddy wasn’t scary enough.

And Robert Englund was in 4-6? Beyond that, and more seriously, consider what I think is the creepiest line in the movie: “The human brain can live for up to seven minutes after the heart stops beating. That means we’ve got six more minutes to play.” That is a very scary line. Also consider that this Freddy is a much more manipulative bastard than the original usually was – in the closing sequences, he implies that his entire goal was to kill all the kids except Nancy – Nancy, he was trying to keep awake until her body went into a coma, when he’d have her at his disposal until she finally died of neglect. That is the plan of an evil, twisted bastard. However, he did have some points where he was a little too light – but that was the fault of executives who insisted on throwing in all the “highlights” of the prior movies. “How’s this for a wet dream?” is a line that should never have been spoken in this film – it should have been allowed to die in Dream Master along with Freddy’s victim.

  • Freddy shouldn’t have been played so seriously.

My response? STFU. There. Done. Note, if you will, that this directly contradicts the prior complaint – can’t make everybody happy, and if they had to pick a crowd, then pick the crowd that didn’t help bring us NIGHTMARE 6: FREDDY’S F@#$ING DEAD!

  • The ending was stupid.

Which one? The ending sequence was pretty good, I thought – except for Freddy suddenly going into ‘light’ mode, which is test-audience and executive-meddling related again. However, beyond that, it was done reasonably well. The time caught in the dream world was very effective, and once they came back into the real world (see a later complaint) the fight was pretty good. After that….

The final ending of the movie was an atrocity. It was when Bob Shaye first made Wes Craven do it in the first film, it still is. I saw something like it coming as soon as the firefighters said “there’s nobody else in there” while the kids were being put into the ambulance, but I was hoping they wouldn’t go for it.

What did they do? They had Freddy burst out of a mirror, stab Nancy’s Mom through the back of the head, and drag her into it, the mirror sealing up behind her. Very much like the ending of the original movie, when Freddy burst through the door to drag a doll of Nancy’s Mom in, while Nancy and her friends were driven off in a Freddy car. Gah. The worst part is, I can think of three other endings that would have been better, and only needed 5 minutes to do it! In no particular order….

1: Happy ending. They actually beat Freddy, and get to go to sleep. For now, at least, they’ve won.
2: The Wall. Earlier in the movie, they called back to the scene in the original where Freddy stretches out a wall and reaches for Nancy – they did so with embarrasingly bad CGI, and it was meaningless, so they could’ve dropped it entirely IMO. However, if they wanted to keep it, then why not just move it to the end? Nancy “kills” Freddy, goes home, and goes to bed… And then Freddy stretches out the wall, reaching for her….
3: The Bath. This is very similar to the last one, but I prefer it myself. Again, earlier in the movie they call back to the ‘bathtub scene’ with Nancy falling asleep and Freddy reaching up out of the water. In the original film, this ended with her being dragged into an ocean of water and nearly drowned. In the movie as it exists, nothing comes of it – she gets out of the bath and continues through a dream sequence that didn’t need her in the bath at all. What I wish they’d done? ‘Kill’ Freddy, go home, and go to take a badly needed bath – after all, she’s bloody and messy now, and *deserves* a good soak. And then, as she dozes off to some desperately needed sleep, up comes Freddy’s hand… hard cut to black. Leave it to the audience’s freakin’ imagination that something happened to Nancy, or if she was really just dreaming. Done. Then, in the next film, you could either bring her back, or have her “fall asleep and drown in the tub.” There y’go.

But sadly? Even I can buy this ending a little bit, if you accept one thing… Freddy won. Nancy never woke up. Freddy killed Quentin, and Nancy was still dreaming the whole time. This actually explains several things – Quentin’s surprising inability to croak, the Pulp Fiction ripoff scene, and the horrible ending we have. Freddy wants to ‘play’ with Nancy, and she really is in a permanent coma, and going to stay there until she dies. I still don’t like it, but I can accept it.

  • The actors playing the kids were horrible.

Legitimate complaint, though I actually did buy into the sleep deprivation part of their portrayal.

  • The jump scares were too numerous, and too predictable.

Fair enough, though I don’t have as much of a problem with it. It’s not a hideous issue, to me – and I actually thought that the closet scene was a nice quirk. For one thing, it was an homage to Halloween. More important – what killer is better suited to turn up mysteriously from the blackness of the closet than Freddy Krueger, the Boogeyman himself?

  • The movie ripped off everything else.

What doesn’t these days? Fair enough, but as somebody who doesn’t watch EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN’ HORROR MOVIE MADE, I enjoyed it, as did my brother.

  • The movie wasn’t as good as the original.

And you thought it would be? It’s a remake, people, it won’t be as good as the original. The few cases where that has happened are cases of lightning in a jar – The Thing from Another World and The Thing. The Fly with Vincent Price and Cronenburg’s The Fly. Now, let’s look at the VAST MAJORITY of remakes.

Yeeeeeah. It wasn’t going to be as good as the original, simply because – gasp, shock – IT’S NOT THE ORIGINAL! Amazing, isn’t it? What you’re looking for in a remake isn’t being better than the original – if it happens, great, but you don’t expect it. What you hope for is that it’s better in some ways. And I’d maintain that this one was. For example, the mystery aspects of the story! In the original movie, the mystery of who Freddy was is entirely solved in the course of one massive data dump. In this film, the kids are most of the way there before they get the rest of the information – it comes out as a better mystery, more something that’s being pieced together.

While the dream sequences weren’t generally as good as the original, they were better in some ways – some of the elements were better done, simply because the technology was available these days.

And, if nothing else, you have to say that this movie was better than Freddy’s Dead or Dream Child. So if you’re going to loathe this movie, you also have to loathe those – and probably Dream Master, too.

  • The CGI sucked.

Yeah, it did. I’m with you there.

  • There wasn’t enough Freddy.
  • There was too much Freddy.

Uhm…. Okay…. Great! Apparently, they’re supposed to make you both perfectly happy with it! I thought the filmmakers did a pretty good job of balancing things, really. They put Freddy in the intro so that you could satisfy the folks who came into this knowing what they wanted… and then they backed off a bit. He showed up, but he wasn’t on-screen all the time, which is a good thing.

Now – was the movie perfect? Hell no. I already talked about the ending, but let me comment on the parents.

DOES NOBODY IN THIS MOVIE HAVE TWO PARENTS?!?

And how the HELL does a single flight attendant afford the huge house and late-model VW Bug for her daughter?

Seriously – NOBODY in the movie had two parents – Quentin lived with his single father. Nancy with her single mother. Chris with her single mother (the flight attendant). WTF? I’d half expected that we’d find out that in the process of killing Freddy he’d managed to take out half the parents trying to kill him. Now, granted, I can understand that something like killing a man can be a strain on a marriage – however, it would be nice for there to be some sign that the other parent is around. Or, say, maybe having them drop by to acknowledge the serial deaths of the children they murdered a man to protect? Come on, folks!

At any rate – I liked this movie. I probably actually will get the DVD when it comes out – I’d like to see an uncut version, or perhaps the Director’s Cut, if it’s available. I’d really like to see the version they put in front of test audiences before they went through for frantic tinkering. Maybe it’ll be worse, maybe it’ll be better.

Either way, there’s still the original films. Unlike George Lucas, nobody’s going through and trying to make it impossible for you to buy the original films instead of the crappier remakes. So enjoy Wes Craven’s film. Enjoy the sequels you want to. And try to enjoy this one, maybe – if nothing else, it’ll probably be a lot better than the sequel (in 3D!!!!!)

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IT DIDN’T SUCK!

April 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Just went to see Nightmare on Elm Street – and guess what!

It didn’t suck!

I want to smack Bob Shaye over the head with a ball bat for insisting on winning the argument with Wes Craven over which ending to Nightmare should have been used, I came up with three better endings on the way home with my brother, but other than that – pretty good. And I really, really have to give the screenwriter credit for dodging the bullet that it looked like he was setting himself up in front of. I won’t go into too many details – I recommend you see the movie yourselves and decide for yourselves if it’s worth it – but all in all, a worthy entry into the Nightmare series. Does it replace #1? Hardly. Is it the best in the series? Not by a long shot. But I’d say it’s a respectable #3 (with Dream Warriors and the original tying for #1, depending on my mood, and Freddy vs Jason or New Nightmare tying for #2, again, depending on my mood.) Vastly better than 2, 4, 5, and 6 – and remember, I *like* #2.

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